The rest of the world can no longer assume that the United States still aspires to be a world leader and needs to readjust its priorities accordingly, Angela Merkel warned.
“We grew up knowing that the United States wanted to be a world power,” the German chancellor said in an interview with a group of six European newspapers, including The Guardian.
“If the United States now wishes to withdraw from that role of its own free will, we will have to reflect on that very deeply.”
Merkel, the first German leader to grow up on the east side of the iron curtain, in the past frequently spoke of her admiration for the global influence of the United States. When she spoke to Congress in 2009, Merkel gave up on the “incredible gift of freedom” bestowed on the East Germans by the collapse of the US-backed Berlin Wall.
But even during Barack Obama’s presidency, Merkel saw her government repeatedly criticized for its low military spending, criticism that escalated with Donald Trump, who recently confirmed plans to withdraw 9,500 US troops from bases in Germany.
In an interview with The Guardian, Süddeutsche Zeitung from Germany, Le Monde from France, La Vanguardia from Spain, La Stampa from Italy and Polityka from Poland, Merkel said the United States’ military presence in central Europe was in her own interest.
“The American troops in Germany help protect not only Germany and the European part of NATO, but also the interests of the United States of America,” said the chancellor.
Speaking of Germany’s military spending, Merkel said: “In Germany we know that we have to spend more on defense; We have made considerable increases in recent years, and we will continue on that path to improve our military capabilities. “
But “deep thinking” for Merkel does not appear to be an endorsement of what French President Emmanuel Macron has called European “strategic autonomy”, the ability to defend the continent without depending on the United States.
“Look at the world; look at China or India, “Merkel said.” There are compelling reasons to remain committed to a transatlantic defense community and our shared nuclear umbrella. But, of course, Europe needs to carry more cargo than during the cold war. “
When asked whether Germany underestimated the threat posed by Russia, Merkel recognized a pattern of belligerent behavior, citing “disinformation campaigns” and the murder of the Chechen exile Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin, which German prosecutors accuse Moscow of having ordered.
“The murder in Berlin’s Tiergarten park is obviously a serious incident, the fault of which is currently being determined in court,” said the chancellor. “In any case, we recognize hybrid warfare, destabilization methods, as a pattern of Russian behavior.”
On the other hand, there are good reasons to continue participating in a constructive dialogue with Russia. In countries like Syria and Libya, countries close to Europe, Russia’s strategic influence is great. Therefore, I will continue to strive for cooperation. “